U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, today questioned Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and General Mark A. Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, on the use of the RD-180 for critical national security launches and the importance of assured access to space.
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I will continue to support the responsible approach in this important debate, which is to guarantee that we have assured access to space so that our men and women in uniform around the world are supported – not left blind on the battlefield because of misguided political decisions.” Key points made in today’s hearing by Air Force Secretary James:
“We think having access to a total of about 18 RD-180s is reasonable and prudent to maintain competition over these next few years.” “I worry that there would be a gap. I believe we need reasonable flexibility as we all work to get off of the Russian engine. I want to reaffirm, we’re very much interested and are working hard to get off that reliance on the Russian engine, but until we do, it is important that we have reasonable flexibility because of assured access to space.”
“It will be challenging. It’s a risky proposition to have it done by FY19, but it’s possible and that’s our objective. But, an engine alone is not a total capability, so even after we have a new engine developed, it has to be integrated with a rocket properly. It has to be tested and certified. So we project that it will be longer than FY19 before we have that total capability to power us into space.”
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